Still strong at 70: Happy birthday to the Saxlingham Players

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. 

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. - Credit: Saxlingham Players

On this day, October 26, back in 1951  a group of people got together to form a company that has gone on to entertain and delight generations of people.

Yes, it was 70 years ago when they gathered at the Old School Room in Saxlingham Nethergate in Norfolk to form a dramatic society.

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. 

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. - Credit: Saxlingham Players

And how well the Saxlingham Players have entertained us over seven decades.

The group archivist William Goff, says that in the years following the Second World War the Women's Institutes held drama classes affiliated to and supported by the Norfolk County Education Department.

At the time there were about 200 such amateur drama groups in the county.

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. 

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. - Credit: Saxlingham Players

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. 

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. - Credit: Saxlingham Players

Between 1951 and 2019, the Players have staged a total of 136 plays, pantomimes and Old Time Music Hall concerts.

“They usually take place in Saxlingham Village Hall and occasionally, in all weathers, in the gardens of the Old Hall (Midsummers Night in 2010), and at Rainthorpe Hall.

Most Read

“That was where open-air performances of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night were staged with National Lottery funding to mark the Millennium and the 400th anniversary of its first performance,” said William.

A planned outdoor production of The Canterbury Tales in the gardens of the Old Rectory in 2019 was interrupted by the pandemic but it is hoped it will be received next summer.

Saxlingham Players are putting on their latest production, comedy Joking Apart. Photo: Lucy Finnie

Saxlingham Players are putting on their latest production, comedy Joking Apart. Photo: Lucy Finnie - Credit: Lucy Finnie

The group has maintained an archive of all programmes dating from April 1952, together with set designs, photos, press cuttings, videos and DVDs of live performances.

Members of all ages, says William, have joined the Players offering a wide range of talents and experience.

For some years sets and costumes were designed by the late Geoffrey Squire, a professional and talented theatre designer, who had previously worked at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Others have pursued careers in professional theatre, including Peter Stickney, the Artistic Director of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the touring group who perform Shakespeare to much acclaim and visit Norwich cathedral as part of their national tours.

Members of the Norfolk drama society the Saxlingham Players

Asher Girling and Lucy Finnie, who play Morris Townsend and Catherine Sloper in Saxlingham Players' production of the Heiress. Photo: Ross Jolliffe - Credit: Ross Jolliffe

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. 

Past productions from the Saxlingham Players, as members celebrate their 70th year. - Credit: Saxlingham Players

Neil Smith, the present chairman of the Players says: “It is quite amazing the amount and variety of talent we have been able to attract over the years, not only in the village but further afield.

“These include a BBC sound engineer, professional artist, hairdressers, set builders, electricians and not only from people wishing to appear on stage, but performing all the many tasks that go into a successful production,” he said.

Members of the Norfolk drama society the Saxlingham Players

From left, John Rockliff as Toby Hancock guest at the party; Judy Munby as Sandy Lloyd Meredith another guest; Vicky Stocks as Mrs Hinson; Chris Price as Michael Smethwick; Kathryn Dobbins as Roma Smethwick; Helen Pye as Jennifer Hinson and Asher Girling as David Hinson. Photo: Saxlingham Players - Credit: Saxlingham Players

The next production in Saxlingham Nethergate Village Hall opening on  Wednesday December 1st and running until Saturday December 4th, is the brilliant Ladies Down Under by Amanda Whittington, her sequel to Ladies Day, which the Players performed back in 2009.

New members and supporters will receive a warm welcome. Further information from Neil Smith on 01508 499667 or via saxlinghamplayers.org.

A round of applause for the Players and all the theatre and drama groups across Norfolk and Suffolk who entertain us so well.


Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter